Before practicing any static in the pool or open water, it is absolutely recommended to first take a certified freediving course to learn the required theory, safety, and rescue procedures. But if you have taken a course some time ago and want to start training again, you may have forgotten the finer points in how to conduct a static training session. This article will cover the points you should discuss with your freediving buddy and other important things to remember before starting your first training session together.
Remember to never practice freediving alone, always with a certified buddy.
Freediving Experience and History
Before going into any pool or open water training session, you need to have a conversation with your freediving buddy on their past experiences with freediving. Treat it like an interview; find out their static PB (personal best), when was the last time they trained, when they usually get their contractions, whether they have ever had a blackout or LMC in the past, any past or present injuries or underlying conditions that might affect their performance, etc. Become familiar with your buddy and their freediving history.
Agree on Signals
Come up with a plan on what signals to use and when. Clarify if they would prefer a safety check to be done with your voice or with a tap (only the first one, if they are unresponsive then you should use both on the second check). Agree on the “I’m OK” signal both of you would like to use during the performance. Some people might want to have a special signal they can use underwater for when contractions arrive, or to ask their buddy how much time has elapsed.
Amount of Physical Contact
Ask your freediving buddy how much physical contact they prefer from you during their performances, and tell them what you yourself prefer. Some people do not like to be touched unless it is to gently move them into place, while others may want a steady hand on them at all times so as not to feel startled by a new touch.
Some freedivers might want reassuring words to be spoken, want you to perform a body scan out loud or to guide them through a visualization, or prefer that you say the elapsed dive time out loud at certain intervals. Your dive buddy may even want you to watch for signs of tension in their bodies and help/tell them to relax. Others may want complete silence.
Discuss how you and your freediving buddy like to prepare in the water before a performance. Do they breathe through a snorkel face-down in the water, on their backs, or vertically? If they breathe on their back, do you need to help them turn over? If they use a float or pool noodle to relax, should you remove it and how should you do so? Would they like a countdown or just prefer to start their breath-hold on their own time? These are useful questions to ask to avoid any miscommunication during the session.
Before training with any new freediving buddy, you should always practice rescue scenarios to refresh your skills. This means practicing the skills for both an LMC (loss of motor control) and a BO (blackout). Check your buddy’s skills to verify that they are fully capable of rescuing you so that you can put your full trust in them. Find out if the location you are training in (or nearby) has emergency oxygen or an AED (automated external defibrillator). Discuss whether both of you are certified in CPR and create an emergency action plan should the situation arise, which means knowing where the closest hospital is and how to contact emergency services.
Keep Them in Place
Whether your buddy wants a hand on their body at all times, or only when you need to move them, make sure that you have a light touch to avoid bothering or startling them. Avoid putting too much weight on one side of your hand or the other (by “resting” your hand on them). When you have to move them, move them slowly and gently. Keep them close to the edge of the pool or the buoy so that they can come up at any time. If their hands reach up and they cannot find the pool edge or the buoy’s handles, you can guide their hands to help them.
Eyes on Your Buddy
Make sure to stay focused on your freediving buddy throughout the duration of the performance. Scan their bodies and look for signs of tension to talk about with them afterwards (or identify them during the dive if your buddy prefers), keep an eye on their backs to see the intensity of their contractions, check for any signs of a blackout (unresponsiveness or bubbles from the mouth), and make sure you can see the hand that will signal you that they are “OK.” You can occasionally glance at the stopwatch to see the elapsed time, but do not make the mistake of focusing solely on the stopwatch and forgetting about your buddy!
Finding a new freediving buddy and getting back into training is a fun and exciting experience, but it should be done in the proper manner. Make sure that you have clear communication with your buddy and refresh those freediving skills that may have been forgotten over the weeks, months, or years since your last certification course. Remember to only engage in breath-hold activities in water with a certified buddy (your parents, partner, or friends do not count). If you are having trouble finding a buddy, check out our suggestions on how to find your future freediving buddy.